The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'I am conversant with both the Vedas and the scriptures that lead to the attainment of Brahma. In the Vedas there are precepts of both kinds, viz., those that inculcate action and those that inculcate renouncement of action. The scriptures are confounding and their conclusions are based upon reasons. The truth, however, that is in the Mantras, is duly known to me. Thou art conversant only with weapons and observant of the practices of heroes. Thou art unable to understand truly the sense of the scriptures. If thou wert really acquainted with duty, then thou couldst have understood that words such as these ought not to have been addressed to me by even one possessed of the clearest insight into the meaning of the scriptures and acquainted with the truths of religion. That, however, which thou hast said unto me, induced by fraternal affection, has been fit and proper, O son of Kunti! I am, for that, pleased with thee, O Arjuna! There is no one equal to thee in the three worlds in all duties connected with battle and in skill in respect of diverse kinds of acts. Thou mayst, therefore, speak of the subtleties connected with those subjects,--subtleties, that is, that are impenetrable by others. It behoveth thee not, however, O Dhananjaya, to doubt my intelligence. Thou art conversant with the science of battle, but thou hast never waited upon the aged. Thou knowest not the conclusions arrived at by those that have studied the subject in brief and detail. Even this is the conclusion of intelligent men whose understanding are bent on achieving salvation, viz., that amongst ascetic penances, renunciation, and knowledge of Brahma, the second is superior to the first, and the third is superior to the second. This, however, that thou thinkest, viz., that there is nothing superior to wealth, is an error. I will convince thee of it, so that wealth may not again appear to thee in that light. All men that are righteous are seen to be devoted to ascetic penances and the study of the Vedas. The Rishis also, that have many eternal regions for them, have the merit of penances. Others possessed of tranquillity of soul, having no enemies, and dwelling in the woods, have, through penances and study of the Vedas, proceeded to heaven. Pious men, by restraining desire for worldly possessions, and casting off that darkness which is born of folly, proceed northward (i.e., by luminous paths) to the regions reserved for practisers of renunciation. The path that lies to the south and that leads to regions of light (i.e., lunar regions), are reserved for men devoted to action. These are attained by persons subject to birth and death. That end, however, which persons desirous of salvation have before their eyes, is indescribable. Yoga is the best means for attaining to it. It is not easy to explain it (to thee). Those that are learned live, reflecting on the scriptures from desire of finding what is unreal. They are, however, often led away to this and to that in the belief that the object of their search exists in this and that. Having mastered, however, the Vedas, the Aranyakas, and the other scriptures, they miss the real, like men failing to find solid timber in an uprooted banana plant. Some there are who., disbelieving in its unity, regard the Soul, that dwells in
this physical frame consisting of the five elements, to be possessed of the attributes of desire and aversion (and others). 1 Incapable of being seen by the eye, exceedingly subtle, and inexpressible by words, it revolves in a round (of re-births) among the creatures of the earth, keeping before it that which is the root of action. 2 Having made the Soul advance towards itself which is the spring of every kind of blessedness, having restrained all desires of the mind, and having cast off all kinds of action, one may become perfectly independent and happy. When there is such a path that is trod by the righteous and that is attainable by Knowledge, why, O Arjuna, dost thou applaud wealth which is full of every kind of calamity? Men of olden times that were conversant with the scriptures, O Bharata,--men that were always engaged in gifts and sacrifice and action, were of this opinion. O Bharata! There are some fools who, accomplished in the science of argumentation, deny the existence of the Soul, in consequence of the strength of their convictions of a previous life. It is very difficult to make them accept this truth about final emancipation. 3 Those wicked men, though possessed of great learning, travel all over the earth, making speeches in assemblies, and deprecating the true doctrine about emancipation. O Partha, who else will succeed in understanding that which we do not understand?' Indeed, (as those men cannot understand the true meaning of the scriptures), similarly they cannot succeed in knowing those wise and pious persons that are truly great and that have deep acquaintance with the scriptures. O son of Kunti, men acquainted with truth obtain Brahma by asceticism and intelligence, and great happiness by renunciation.'
36:1 Refers to the well-known definition of the soul or mind in the Nyaya philosophy, which says that it is distinguished by the attributes of desire, aversion, will, pleasure and pain, and the cognitive faculties.
36:2 The soul, though really bereft of attributes, nevertheless revolves in a round among creatures, i.e., enters other bodies on the dissolution of those previously occupied. The reason of this round or continual journey is Avidya or illusion, viz., that absence of true knowledge in consequence of which men engage themselves in action. When the soul is freed from this Avidya, action ceases, and the soul becomes revealed in its true nature, which consists in the absence of all attributes.
36:3 Hetumantah Panditah means--learned in the science of reasoning; Dridhapurve is explained by Nilakantha as persons endued with strong convictions of a past life: Suduravartah means difficult of being made to understand.
Next: Section XX